Bush plan: Sleep well, send more troops?

Officials say the White House could send 40,000 more troops to Iraq.

By Tim Grieve
Published December 15, 2006 2:23PM (EST)

George W. Bush tells People magazine: "I must tell you, I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume."

We're glad to hear it. A man's got to get his rest, especially when he's got a busy day like today's ahead of him. According to the official White House schedule, the president will start his day with a ceremony for the 2006 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, then bust down to the Pentagon for an "Armed Forces Full Honor Review" in honor of Donald Rumsfeld, then get back to the White House in time for a holiday reception for the diplomatic corps.

Somewhere in there, we're sure he'll spend a few moments thinking about the "way forward" in Iraq. Current and former senior government officials tell McClatchy Newspapers that the "emerging" White House strategy involves a deeper U.S. involvement in the civil war. Although U.S. forces may shift from combat to training roles, the officials say that Bush is considering a "short-term surge of as many as 40,000 more American troops to try to secure Baghdad, along with a permanent increase in the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps, which are badly strained by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The McClatchy report, which is consistent with a Los Angeles Times story from earlier this week, suggests that the president is likely to reject many of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Can he sell a different plan to the American people? ISG advisor and Hoover Institution scholar Larry Diamond says it's going to be tough. "If he's going to trash the Iraq Study Group report, he's going to have to come up with something coherent, different and that is demonstrably better," Diamond tells McClatchy. "I think he's not likely to persuade the country that he's done so."

The bigger question is, does he care? Through polls and election results, the American people have made it clear that they'd like to see less U.S. involvement, not more, in Iraq. The toll is so high -- 2,938 U.S. dead now -- and the offsetting benefit . . . well, has there really been one? Will there ever be?

Go back to bed, Mr. President.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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